Journal Entry: November 2009

I survived.

I’m tempted to make those two words my whole journal entry, but so much happened in November that I don’t want to forget. And so much happened in November that I’m going to forget it.

Even this post won’t get it all, but I want to grab the highlights.

I started the month with a NaNoWriMo kickoff party at IHOP with my writing group, and that actually is documented already. I’ve also talked a little bit about my NaNoWriMo progress, and my class sessions. I’ll do another post with a post mortem for NaNoWriMo, but here I wanted to talk about what else I did.

I finished a major manuscript for work on the 5th, and that freed up some of my attention and some of my creative energy, so I finally really got started writing on the 6th. I had a birthday lunch at P. F. Chang’s on the 8th, and then a holiday (Veteran’s Day) on the 11th that gave me a pretty easy work week, and a good opportunity to get caught up on my word count again. Then Saturday the 14th I had a great opportunity to get behind again.

Probably the big event of November (for me), T– threw a big birthday party for my 30th, inviting my mom and dad, and all my friends. D–, of course, B– and E–, K– and N–, my little sister and her family, as well as Courtney and Ed (who were a real hit). T– had everyone bring a bottle of wine, which was quite a treat, and she grilled up ribs for us as the main dish in a pretty extensive (and delicious) spread. We chatted and played Rock Band, and had a great time. Shawn and Liz showed up after most of the other guests had left, but stuck around to watch UHF with the Cantrells and me. That was fun. The whole night was incredible.

In WoW news, I got my Hunter to 80 (which marks the first time I’ve had a Hunter at the level cap). I also started a pair of Horde characters on Shawn’s server, so I can chat with him from time to time. He’s popped in on Dark Iron a time or two, too, and that’s been fun.

I had a conversation with T–, and a conversation with my writing group, and a conversation with my dad over the phone on a drive home from work, and the end result of all that is that I’m finally going to try to get some treatment for my social anxiety. That’s not really something I want to talk about in detail in this post, but it happened in November. So there you go.

Then last week was Thanksgiving week (which is always drama, and NaNoWriMo brings its own demons). T– headed up to Wichita early, on Tuesday afternoon, and I had dinner with D– at a new Mexican place downtown (Iguana Grill, and it’s awesome), then went by Bruce’s to borrow his ladder and ended up spending an hour and a half chatting with him, then went home and got started on Christmas preparations instead of going to bed.

I wanted to have the tree up (and ready for decoration) by the time T– came home from Wichita. I decided to get all the decorations down from the attic, too, and somewhere in there I decided I should hang Christmas lights outside. Wal-Mart had LED lights at a reasonable price, so I picked up 8 strings and spent Wednesday afternoon crawling around on the roof of the house, getting everything set up. It proved to be more work than I anticipated, but the end result is stunning. (I’m sure T– will have a photo up on her blog eventually.)

I’d barely gotten off the roof when D– showed up to take me down to Chicasha to pick up his grandma, and then we all headed to Wichita. With that extra trip, a two-and-a-half-hour drive became something perilously close to five, but I spent most of it sleeping in the back seat, so who’s complaining.

Then Thanksgiving was four straight days of Charboneaus. That’s an amazing family, and they really know how to have a good time when they get together. T– brought my XBox and Rock Band, and that was incredibly popular. The food was incredible. The Cowboys won convincingly, and then a disappointing Sooners team showed up on Saturday and totally shut out OSU in the Bedlam game, so that was pretty satisfying.

We got home Sunday afternoon, and as we turned the corner onto our street, AB called from the back seat, “Ooh, the house is ready for Christmas!” T–, of course, was thrilled. After watching her parents get all their Christmas decorations done Friday morning, she’d been left wondering when we could even get around to it, and here it was all ready for her.

AB couldn’t wait to get started, and she and her mom got the tree all decorated before bedtime.

Then yesterday was the 30th, the end of my wonderful, grueling November, and I capped it with a write-in at Courtney’s. We both made our official submissions to the NaNoWriMo website around 11:00, validated our winning word counts, and then stayed up far too late talking. All too often, in the midst of a conversation about this or that, one or the other of us would trail off, staring away into space, and then just say quietly, “I can’t believe it’s over.”

It’s over. And I survived.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

Journal Entry: October 16, 2009

Well, after all my angst yesterday over the NaNoWriMo prewriting stuff, I loaded up the rough draft of my novel-writing how-to, and discovered that it was already reformatted to work on two weeks of prep time (instead of the month I thought I’d used), and that all of the assignments were written out, and all but one of the lessons that go with them.

So, it turns out, I’ve got about one hour’s worth of work to do over the next two weeks, to take care of all that stuff I was woeing over yesterday. That doesn’t count my own prewriting, of course, but I can find time for that. It was the technical writing I was worried about. Turns out, that’s done.

So I spent about an hour (off an on) on Facebook yesterday posting that material and chatting with my writing group, and there’s some real excitement to get started. I can’t wait.

In the evening we had the last of our monthly summer picnics for Britton Road. T– was really looking forward to it (as she always does), and with them going out of town it seemed like a really good idea to go along and spend the evening with my family, away from my computer. Of course it didn’t hurt that T– was bringing two gallons of my chili recipe to compete in the chili cookoff, so I knew I’d get a great dinner out of it.

Turned out, I didn’t do so well. Before I’d finished the short walk to bring the crockpot from our car to the picnic tables, I found myself struggling to breathe. I thought, “I’m not that out of shape” before I realized what it really was. Too many people. I ended up spending an hour and a half huddled over my little bowl of chili, trying not make eye contact with anyone but K– or N–, and mostly just focusing on my breathing. It was a real waste of what could have been a fun evening.

I got through it, though, and when we got home there was a whole Thursday night’s worth of comedy to watch, and we watched it all (quite in spite of the late hour). That was fun.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

Journal Entry: September 28, 2009

Wednesday after work we met K– and N– at Johnny’s Charcoal Broiler — carrying on a tradition started the first time T– took AB to church, and we ate there for lunch. The food was delicious, of course, and it was a fun time getting together with friends.

Afterward, everybody but K– and me walked over to church for Wednesday night classes. K– came over to my place to help me with T–‘s broken computer. He had a hard drive caddy handy, with connections for all manner of hard drive, and in no time at all he had the data from T–‘s laptop copied over to mine. That solved the biggest of T–‘s fears (lost photos and work documents), but of course the laptop was still broken.

After church the family came back home, and we spent the evening watching TV while I played WoW.

Thursday I had to prepare a tutorial/lecture for my students, and I spent a significant chunk of time after work reviewing it and getting it posted to the website. I also spent much of the day (and evening) reviewing the students’ submissions for the first document packet, and fielding questions from them (by email, of course).

Karla made us some incredible quesadillas for dinner. D– came over for that, and to play some WoW with me, but mostly to pick up T–‘s dead computer and take it home with him. He spent the evening getting it resurrected (with the help of a spare hard drive he had sitting around, which probably saved me a hundred bucks), and getting the OS back on it.

Apart from that, Thursday night was more TV, and more WoW. We chilled, and caught our breath.

Friday I met Toby for lunch, and we discussed (among other things) a document conversion project I’ve got to get done for work. He had volunteered to help with that when they came to visit at the hospital, and this was my first opportunity to provide him with more detailed information. He sounded optimistic that he could get it done, and we made arrangements to meet at his place Sunday evening.

Then in the afternoon I got home from work a little bit early, so I was there when D– brought T–‘s laptop by, and I installed a few more programs for her, and now it’s better than new.

D– had to go back to work, but he agreed to meet us for dinner. Half an hours after he left, Mom and Dad got in from Little Rock. We introduced them to Alexander (or XP, as he’ll be known hereabouts in the future), then spent some time socializing while we waited for my sister and her family to come over. A little after five we piled into a bunch of vehicles, and headed over to Mama Roja for dinner.

As we were waiting for our table, T– turned to me and said with some surprise, “Can you believe it’s been nine days since we’ve been here?” Her Mom rocked our world by pointing out it had actually been two whole weeks. Craziness.

Anyway, it was a crowded, busy table, but we all had delicious food and enjoyed the opportunity to talk. Afterward, T–‘s parents left from the restaurant to head home, and everyone else came over to our place.

I took Mom up to Homeland to pick up the necessary supplies, then when we got back to the house I mixed up a pitcher of rum margaritas. They went over pretty well, but T– and I had a hankering for the real thing, so as soon as the pitcher was empty I filled it up again, with tequila this time, and we had a grand ol’ time.

Saturday morning T– and Mom headed up to Edmond (with XP in tow) for pedicures with my sister, and Dad headed to Edmond for a conference at Memorial Road Church of Christ on an educational framework called Journeylands. That left me at home with AB. We played in her room, we spent half an hour or so on my laptop playing the Memory game, we read from her books, and we practiced telling each other stories.

Then T– called to tell me we were all supposed to meet Dad for lunch at Jason’s Deli, so I had AB watch some TV while I got ready, and then we rapidly got her dressed (and I made a humorous attempt at putting her hair in a ponytail), and headed north.

Lunch was awesome, and afterward T– and Mom took AB with them to go shopping for baby stuff. Dad headed back to his conference, so that left me alone. I ran home, took care of some stuff on my laptop, and then headed back out again for our monthly writer’s group at Courtney’s.

That probably deserves its own post (as it’s gotten in the past), but I’m feeling lazy now and I was sleepy and distracted then, so I couldn’t do it justice anyway. Shawn was missing, so it was just the three of us. We started out talking about dreams (and nightmares), and I told the story of my first nightmare (the killer shark in the apartment swimming pool), and my most recent (last week, when T– walked away from our marriage because I left her to fend for herself when we found ourselves caught in a swamp surrounded by killer snakes and spiders).

Then from there we talked more about our creative influences, how we come up with titles, and how we cope with the constant temptation to jump to new projects — leaving old ones unfinished. We also talked about another OKC writer’s group we might try to crash sometime, and a potential addition to our group, and traditional versus non-traditional publishers. I also dragged the conversation toward magic in the real world for a bit, and we each seized that opportunity to feel a little bit foolish.

Then it was 4:30, and time to split up. I got home just after Dad, and Mom was still there with AB (who was taking a nap). T– was already up at the church, getting ready for a crop, and she had XP with her.

So it was just me and Mom and Dad, and I took the opportunity to ask them for some advice and analysis on parenting. Specifically, I wanted to know how much change I should expect in AB in the coming years. I feel like we’ve weathered the differentiation called “the terrible twos” at this point — we’ve seen it, we’ve found ways to address it, and at this point, though her rebellion can be frustrating at times, it isn’t baffling. It’s predictable, and addressable, and I feel like we both know who she is.

So my question was, how many more major change events are there, in early childhood development? I was relieved when Mom and Dad both agreed there really aren’t any. We can reasonably expect AB to be pretty much the person she is now for most of the next nine years. I’m happy with that answer. I like the person she is.

They also had some good information about how to handle the challenges of her differentiation events in her teenage years, but I really didn’t enjoy thinking about that. Not that I’m worried about the rebellion or family drama or anything…I just don’t like thinking about her being a teenager. It feels far too close, and that’s only a handful of years before she’s gone. Miserable thought, that.

Anyway, that took up most of an hour, and then I went and woke AB up so she could go to the church with Mom. A few minutes later K– came over, having dropped his baby off there, too. We ordered a couple pizzas and loaded up Beatles: Rock Band. An hour or so later, my brother-in-law called to ask if he could come join us, and we rocked out for two hours before he and K– had to go pick up their little ones.

Right around then Mom and my older sister came home with AB, and after she went down to bed the rest of us played some more Rock Band. I mixed up a pitcher of strawberry daiquiris for us, too, and we all had a good time. By the time T– got home my sister was gone (to stay at my little sister’s place), and Mom and Dad were in bed, so it was just me still awake, playing WoW.

I didn’t stay up too late, though. I was tired, so I went to bed around 11:30 with no regrets.

Sunday morning we had a full house getting ready for church, and all of us running a little bit late, but we managed to get ourselves together somehow and showed up no more than five minutes later for service.

The sermon was on the various social values of hymns in a congregation, and before Rob was done Dad leaned over and said, “I want you to introduce me to your preach after church.” Turned out that was a sermon Dad had been wanting to preach for years, and while he’d heard lots of sermons on the topic, he’d never heard anyone express the real benefits and perspective that Rob gave in his sermon.

So we caught Rob after church (after waiting through an impressive line), and Dad got to compliment and thanks Rob for his sermon, and Rob got invite Dad to come give a marriage and family seminar to Britton Road sometime — something he’s been wanting to talk with Dad about for a while. So that’s pretty cool.

Then afterward we all went over my sister’s place for an Italian-themed lunch of salad, chicken pasta, and cheesecake for dessert. Everyone agreed the food was incredibly good. AB and her older cousin weren’t getting along terribly well, though — probably because they were both in severe need of a nap — so we split up and went back home to put AB to bed. Mom and Dad decided to head home around the same time, too, so we got them packed up and said our goodbyes.

And then, suddenly and unexpectedly, the house was quiet. For the first time in ten days.

T– watched some Law and Order, I played some WoW, and then AB woke up from her nap and the spell was broken. We grabbed some McDonalds for dinner, and then all too soon it was time for me to head down to Norman for my meeting with Toby.

I didn’t want to go. I was tired and worn out, and it’s not a short drive, but I had made a commitment. And, after all, Toby was doing a favor for me. I showed up, and found out he had, in fact, finished it. He walked me through the code, teaching me what it did (so I could make little modifications on my own), and it’s one of those things where it’s fascinating in its simplicity. He did a really fantastic job. And after a quick test run (and double-checking how the output looked in Word), I was able to put the work stuff aside and we had some time to just talk. That was fun. He’s in the same boat I am — having to work with a new baby at home — but in spite of all the chaos, and petty problems at work, and weird happenings with rent houses in Tulsa…in spite of all that, we’re both doing pretty well. It was fun to get to hear that, and say that, and just to talk programming with my programming teacher for an hour or so.

Then I drove back home, in the weary dark, and crawled into bed and said good night to my weekend.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

My Tens of Thousands

I’m an observant person. I’m introspective and extrapolative. I spend a lot of time thinking about how the world really is, and how that information should affect my decisions. I call this careful consideration my “governing intellect” — not that it does a ton of governing. It ends up being more a source of guilt (that I don’t follow my reason) than a helpful tutor. But still, I sometimes heed its advice — and sometimes to my own detriment.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, the Lord said to my governing intellect, “Come and sit by my side.” I’m not a proud man. I went and I sat. The man had some interesting things to say.

I have always lived a charmed life. This has manifested in mundane ways (a happy, prosperous family environment, an upbringing with a strong emphasis on education, and an inborn talent with the written word), and in ways mystical (I’ve never lost real money in a game of poker).

I’ve long recognized this effect in my life, and rarely taken it for granted. I remember reading the Odyssey early in high school and recognizing an easy familiarity with Odysseus, beloved of Athene. He was clever and careful, but even so, he had help. Things ever fell his way. So also with me.

In our own lore there’s another like him, and I’ve also often compared myself to King David. Chosen and blessed, set apart to do great things, I had nothing to fear from even the mightiest of enemies. That became my refrain. I can’t count the times I’ve whispered under my breath, “Lord, let me pass unseen through the camp of my enemies.”

He took me aside recently, though, and reprimanded me. That has been too much my attitude. When a university-level teaching job fell into my lap — money we sorely needed and an opportunity many people invest years of their lives just to apply for — I spent days and weeks and months just worrying, just hoping that I could survive. I just wanted to get through it, hopefully without drawing any attention to myself, and make it to December in one piece.

Oh humble yes, he said, but humble son of God!

There is so much more to David than the slinking thief, discreetly hemming his king’s old cape. An heir is made not just to survive, but to reign. I’ve spent years hiding in my dirty cave, with nary an adversary on the plains below. Anointed and appointed, spending all my gracious charms on nervous getting by, when my role is so much greater. I should be capturing cities to swell my empire. I should be conquering to preserve my name, and to lift up the names of my sons. I’ve spent long enough as a shepherd, I should long since have become a king.

That failing is on me. The opportunities to rise up are always there — served up to me on royal finery, and squandered in my timidity even as I proclaim that I’m trembling in fear of the Parable of the Talents. The Lord said to my governing intellect, “Come and sit by my side, and we’ll make cautious reason our footstool, because there are far more interesting things going on than your boring old reality.”

I can’t wait to see my Jerusalem.

Journal Entry: September 23, 2009

On Monday I told a lot of people, “Oh, it’s so much easier with the second baby. With Annabelle we were up all night, every night, startling awake at every tiny sound. With Alexander, we’re a lot more relaxed. I’m actually getting a lot of sleep.”

On Monday night, he proved me a liar. Bigtime.

So, as a result, I woke up late yesterday and I was dragging. I went in to work anyway, and stumbled through the morning’s responsibilities, and then spent my lunch break grading papers, and then darted out to OC for my fourth week of class. I will, of course, tell that tale elsewhere.

I had several students hang around after class to talk with me, as I’ll mention in my recap. That was awesome, in the sense of making a connection with my students, but it was draining in the sense described in detail in last week’s link, Caring for Your Introvert. On top of that, everyone I interacted with at work all day wanted to talk about the baby (and, frankly, I did too…but it’s still tiring). Then I got home to a full house — T–, two babies, and two in-laws.

It’s nothing but whining about blessings, but all that interaction got to me yesterday. After three weeks of getting crippled before my classes by anxiety — for days on end — I managed to get away with fewer than three hours of anxiety problems this week, and they could be gone altogether by the next time we meet for class. But my night was still shot just from interaction exhaustion.

T– let me hold Alexander as soon as I got home, and I took him to the couch and AB came running up to see him, and I asked her all about her day. At the same time, T–‘s mom and dad got home from some shopping they asked me all about my day, and it was all perfectly nice but for some reason I just wanted to cry.

So I handed the baby off to his Papa, and then when no one was looking I slipped off to the bedroom to hide in the dark.

Karla and John naturally picked up that something was wrong, and they know me well enough that they were able to guess what, and they said they’d be willing to head home early if I needed a little alone time before my family showed up this weekend. I replied to that with an emphatic no, because they’re doing so much to make our lives easier. I really, really appreciate all their help. I’ve just got my own crazies, and the demands of the situation don’t really allow for any good outlets. It’s a pretty short-term problem, though, and one I’ve weathered countless times before. I’m not going to go turning away good help just because I’m feeling a little uncomfortable.

Anyway, there was bacon on the griddle and brisket in the crockpot, so I didn’t stay in hiding for too terribly long. I came out for dinner and then took sanctuary behind my laptop for the rest of the evening hours, while we watched Word World and Lie to Me. Then, when the rest of the family had gone to bed, I stayed up a little longer in the still silence and finished off Newsradio. Such a great show.

Ah. I did have one actual problem yesterday. T–‘s laptop is dying. It takes forever to boot into Windows (if it does at all, before locking up), and then when it loads it gives a complaint about accessing the user profile and loads a temporary profile instead. It seems pretty clear that it’s a hard drive problem — probably from AB knocking the laptop off an end-table last week while she was watching videos — but there’s a lot of photos and T–‘s work stuff on that hard drive that we’re going to be incredibly frustrated to lose. And, y’know, no laptop. I don’t cherish the idea of sharing mine with T– and AB. We all have very different ideas about what a computer should be doing, and how it should be handled.

So, y’know, that’s going to be a mess. Probably an expensive one, but sometimes we’re saved by hand-me-downs and free IT services from friends we’re all-too-happy to take advantage of. So I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

Journal Entry: September 14, 2009

Friday night T–‘s parents came in from Wichita, and after unloading the newly refurbished dining table and chairs that John had brought down, we took them out to dinner at Mama Roja (of course). It was delicious. Other than that, it was just WoW.

Saturday around noon we went to Mayfair Church of Christ for D–‘s grandma’s birthday party. It was about forty people, mostly D–‘s family, and only a couple people I knew, but for some reason (and completely unexpectedly) that place hit my social anxiety something awful. We were there for two hours. The brisket was good.

Afterward we went home, and brought my niece Lola with us. We watched her for a couple hours, then when my sister came to pick her up, T– and her family went up to Hobby Lobby for some fabric shopping.

John and I had talked about going out to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner to catch the OU game (since it was only showing on pay per view), but I still felt bad from the afternoon’s activity so I stayed home and made us all chili instead. Then I played WoW for the rest of the night while John watched the race and the rest of us watched an episode of Lie to Me.

Sunday morning I skipped church, and spent some time coming up with a list of adjectives to describe little Alexander. That…didn’t turn out to be useful. I had fun with it, though.

T– made barbecue sandwiches for lunch, then she and her parents headed to my sister’s place for a baby shower while my brother-in-law brought his two girls over to play. They watched Word World with AB while Jeff and I talked for an hour or so. Then I took AB up to the shower.

Now, T– had told me she wasn’t expecting much of a turnout at the shower, since all of my family had all canceled and several of the ladies from church had said they wouldn’t be there. So I was somewhat astonished to walk into my sister’s house and find it packed full of people.

They had brought so many gifts, and while I was there the guests read out blessings for Alexander and T– and me, that they’d written earlier. That was precious.

Afterward, we came home and said goodbyes to T–‘s parents, then I played WoW and waited for D– to become available. He called around six, and we both headed up to Edmond to watch the Cowboys game with K– and N–.

It was an excellent game. I left at half time so I could watch some of the game with T– (who’d been too exhausted to go with me). We enjoyed that so much that we watched the end of the Bears / Packers game, too.

Sort of an erratic weekend, and exhausting, but a lot of fun. And, y’know, the Cowboys won. Awesome.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

Journal Entry: September 4, 2009

Big week for me, so yeah I should have been posting regularly. But, then, it was a big week for me, so I had other stuff to do.

Starting with getting sick.

(Yes, I already did Sunday, just bear with me.)

Sunday morning I woke up with the sniffles and a severe, sinus-related headache — harkening back to the Sunday only two weeks before, when I went through the same thing. That one was short-lived, though….

This one has lingered. And grown.

So, yeah, Monday morning I woke up feeling pretty out-of-it and miserable, but I just assumed (with my big first day of school looming) that it was a social anxiety thing. Every now and then I’d stop and think, “Wait, this feels more like a head cold than an anxiety attack,” but then I’d just call myself silly because, after all, I had a big terrifying Event looming. Of course it was anxiety!

I went to work Monday, and then got home to an empty house because T– had AB at the grocery store with her. D– came over, and T– brought a pizza home with her, and we all had a pleasant dinner. Then T– took AB to go shopping with my little sister, and D– drove me up to Full Circle Bookstore for social writing.

It was just the two of us this time, and we both got a lot done. We wrote about a thousand words each, in two hours at the coffee shop, then headed down to the restaurant for an hour of good conversation. I got home a little after ten, and went straight to bed.

Tuesday morning I went in to work, and spent most of my time there answering coworkers who started conversations with, “Today’s the big day, huh? Are you ready?” And my answer was always, “Sure I’m ready! I’ve been doing this for seven years. All I have to do is show up, and start talking. I’ll fill an hour like that!”

Noon rolled around, and I headed home. I took the afternoon off, so I wouldn’t have to rush hither and thither on my first day of classes. Had lunch with T– and AB, grabbed my laptop, and headed up to the school. I’ll tell you all about my first class session in a separate post.

In brief, though, it didn’t go well. And, on top of all that, I was sick. I still suspected at the time that it was a response to the stress of the day, but that certainly didn’t lessen after class was over. I drove home, desperately glad I wasn’t supposed to go back to work, and crashed on the couch, and did nothing else for the rest of the day. I did watch AB while T– went grocery shopping, but that consisted mostly of stretching out on the couch, one arm over my eyes, and half-heartedly saying, “Don’t make a mess” while she watched TV and played with her puzzles.

Wednesday morning I woke up early and went to work, then slipped out halfway through the morning to see my doctor for my annual physical. I haven’t gotten any of the lab results back yet, but for the most part everything’s good. He’s got me back on Benicar for my blood pressure, but even that is much better than it was a year ago. He said if I can get my diastolic down by ten points, I can probably go off it altogether. So that’s my six-month goal.

Anyway, after that I went right back to work. Mid-afternoon I was chatting with T– and asked her about dinner plans and she reminded me that she was going out with Becca, and I was watching AB. So that was that.

I got home, and she left, and AB and I played in the living room for an hour or so before D– showed up. Then the three of us ran up to Taco Bueno to grab some dinner. Afterward AB crawled up next to me on the couch while I was poking around on Facebook, and she jabbed a finger at the screen, at my little profile photo, and said, “That’s you, Daddy!”

And I said, “It is!” and opened the photo up larger so she could see it. Then she started looking through all the little thumbnails on the screen, trying to spot people she recognized, and we played that game for fifteen minutes or so.

When she got bored of that, I set her up on T–‘s laptop watching really, really old episodes of Sesame Street, and D– and I played WoW. That carried us through to AB’s bedtime.

Then D– left and T– and I watched some Lie to Me, and then it was tomorrow.

My Tuesday-Thursday class is what we’re calling a “hybrid online course,” which means we’re meeting in class on Tuesdays, and then on Thursdays the students go to the school’s e-classroom website and watch a recorded lecture, get an assignment, and work on that over the weekend. Next Tuesday when we meet for class, we’ll go over the assignment before I launch into my lecture.

Anyway, that meant I didn’t have to go out to the school on Thursday, but I did have to get the online lecture put together. That…didn’t end up happening, for technical reasons. I posted the assignment, and I put together a heavily-illustrated tutorial (How to Write a Business Letter) that I made available, and I sent them an email saying, “Sorry, but I’m having technical problems so your lecture won’t be available until tomorrow. If you’re in a hurry to get started, check out the tutorial posted online.”

Not the best way to get started. In the process, though, I came up with a really great process for developing my online lectures. I was able to convert the illustrations in my tutorial directly into PowerPoint slides for the lecture, and use the text as a script for my voiceover. That lets me develop the lecture to my strengths (that is, tech writing), produce a useful lecture, and also have a well-made tutorial document left over when I’m done. That seems like a good thing all around.

Anyway, I took care of that yesterday, finishing it up in the early evening. T– made sloppy joes for dinner, I played WoW, and after AB went to bed we watched the last episode of Lie to Me. It was intense.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

Journal Entry: August 24, 2009

Friday afternoon I got home in a bad mood from work, walked into the kitchen to pour myself a Coke and after a quick, “Welcome home!” T– told me a little about her day, and then said, “Oh, and I’ve got all my stuff ready.”

And the words, “Ready for what?” died on my lips. She had a crop Friday night. I’d known about it for a month. I was not in any mood to watch AB, though.

I had about half an hour to change that. Luckily, AB woke up and ran to me with a big, “Daddddy!” that did a lot to make the transition easier. Then right after T– headed to the church, D– called and asked if I wanted a snowcone, so that (and his company for the evening) helped a lot, too.

Actually, it ended up being a pretty fun night. We went up to McDonalds so AB could play in the play area, then came back home and I set her up watching videos on T–‘s laptop while D– and I broke out the Rock Band. She’d periodically throw off the headphones to come dance to our music. That was fun.

Then around bedtime I played with her a bit, put her to sleep, and then got back to rocking with D– until T– got home. At that point I seriously considered going out and wrecking another weekend with poor decision-making, but somehow overwhelmed that impulse. I watched an episode of Lie to Me with T–, and then went to bed elevenish.

Saturday morning I woke up late and mowed the lawn, and suddenly it was 1:00. I had some leftover barbecue and it was as good as new, then poked around on the computer for a few minutes, and then it was time to go.

“Time to go” because we had our second monthly Britton Road writer’s group on Saturday. I threw in a bunch of modifiers there, because this was a sequel to our writer’s group last month, not to the social writing at the coffee shop last Tuesday. The follow-up to that event takes place tonight, at Full Circle Bookstore, and will likely feature many of the same people who were at the thing on Saturday. I know it’s confusing. I’ll try to come up with clear distinctions of the two things (or convince both groups to merge them into a seamless whole), but for now, you’ll have to wade through explanatory paragraphs like this one.

But, yeah, “time to go” because we had our second monthly Britton Road writer’s group on Saturday. Courtney hosted again, and I showed up a few minutes after J. T., and Shawn showed up a few minutes later. We had German Iced Tea, and gave feedback on each others’ submitted works. J. T. submitted a couple short-form poems, Courtney submitted a truly chilling short story, and Shawn submitted a one-act play that clocked in right around seven pages. Oh, and I submitted all 200-plus pages of Gods Tomorrow. Don’t judge me. That’s just who I am.

We had some great discussion, though. We talked about structured writing, and longhand drafts, and early efforts, and then spent about half our time on psychological disorders. We had an expert among us (of the “trained professional” variety, not simply “longtime sufferer”), and we ended up with some really great information.

We were done with that by 4:30, but T– had taken AB over to my little sister’s place, so I had some free time in the afternoon. I spent it playing Magic on the XBox, and pretty much stuck with that until T– put AB down for bed. Then we watched a little TV, and she went to bed, and I stayed up to play a bunch more Magic on the XBox.

Sunday morning T– took AB to a special event (along with my little sister and her girls). Unwilling to face the adversity that is Christian fellowship without the protective barrier of my perfect little family, I decided to skip church. Around 11:30 I called D– up, and we headed to Edmond to meet the girls at Jason’s Deli for lunch. It was delicious.

Then D– took me home, and I spent much of the afternoon playing Magic on the XBox. I finally had to put it away when T– invited my sister’s family over for dinner (she grilled hotdogs). While we were waiting for them to show up, I set up the Rock Band stuff, and after a quick dinner we sent the little ones to AB’s room to play, and then we spent a couple hours rocking out. That was pretty fun.

After the guests left, T– and I watched an episode of Psych, and discussed watching something else serious, but we weren’t in the mood for serious. It was late, anyway, so we gave up and went to bed.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

Journal Entry: August 10, 2009

I really only listen to music when I’m in my car, driving back and forth to work, so I’ve never developed very refined tastes. For the most part, I listen to hip hop stations. One thing you encounter with pop radio stations like that is a pretty small selection of music with heavy repeats. At any given time, there’s probably a library of six to ten hip hop songs getting played on the radio. The turnover is pretty quick, but you’re just not going to hear anything from the back catalog.

I’ve got the presets on my radio ordered by my preference (with the sixth and final preset dedicated to NPR). This morning on the drive in to work a commercial came on my number one station, and I punched all the way through to five before I found music playing. Five happens to be a country station that advertises its selection as “today’s top country.”

The song on the radio was Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee,” which is a song I really liked back when it first came out seventeen years ago. That’s today’s top country. I guess they’re ruling out Johnny Cash’s old stuff, and anything by Hank Williams, Sr.

Still, after that song went off I got to hear one called “God is Great, Beer is Good, and People are Crazy.” That one made me smile.

Last Friday I got off work a little bit early (as I often do on Fridays), so that left me a couple hours at home before I was supposed to head over to B– and E–‘s place. I spent it edging the yard.

See, we’ve only got an electric weed eater, and it’s the cheap sort with the stupid flimsy plastic string that’s constantly snapping and requiring field maintenance, so I really only edge the yard about once a year — when the grass along the front curb is hanging majestically out over the street and providing willowy shade to cars that pass beneath. Then I gear up for an afternoon of edging, and spend forty-five minutes hacking through the trunks of the fescue.

So I did that last Friday. It was hot Friday, and I did this around four in the afternoon, so just all around poor planning. Still, the yard looks pretty good now.

After that I got cleaned up and headed over to B– and E–‘s place, where we discussed dinner plans and (far more important) drinking plans. I floated the idea of some O. G. Diddies (the same vodka, grape, lemonade drink that we all learned to rue last Poker Night), and B– and E– were game, so we stopped by the grocery store on our way to pick up the pizza.

The drinks were a hit, the pizza was delicious, and while we were enjoying both, B– broke out the new Wii Sports Resort. I watched them play some (because I was ravenous), and then when E– tried throwing a Frisbee, I just had to try it out. I did about as well at that as I would’ve done in real life (which is to say, very poorly), so that left me impressed with the hardware.

Then I tried out the Samurai Showdown mode of swordfighting, which has you charging into a horde of sword-wielding Miis who surround you and then politely attack you one at a time. In true Samurai-movie fashion, you get to mow them down en masse. So much fun. I wore myself out playing that.

Then I decided to try out the archery mode, and had a lot of fun with that, too. Then B– challenged me to some pick-up basketball, and I did about as well as you’d expect. That is to say, I lost. Badly. I didn’t score a single point. Yay.

After that we turned off the Wii and turned on Tropic Thunder because, even though B– and E– had already seen it, they’d always wanted to see it with me. How cool is that? Halfway through I started pointing out that it’s really just a remake of The Three Amigos (and, at last, to audience familiar enough with The Three Amigos that they could actually get this), and of course that knowledge blew their minds. Fun stuff.

Anyway, after the movie we spent some time talking, so it was 2:15 before I got home. Somehow I managed not to be a complete idiot RE: consumption of alcohol, but I still didn’t feel like going to sleep when I got home, so I stayed up for another hour or two playing Fallout.

Saturday morning I woke up at 10:30 and mowed the lawn, which took about twice as long as expected because we’ve spent most of the last week with high temperatures and heavy rain, so the grass has flourished. Anyway, I got that done, got cleaned up, and somehow it was already time to head to Wichita. I packed in a hurry, cleaned up the house just a little bit so T– wouldn’t have to come home to total chaos, and then ran up to Edmond to pick up my brother-in-law.

I got to drive the new Vue, which was sweet.

On the way north, we listened to the Lonely Island CD, and then spent an hour and a half discussing the premise for Burn Jump, and just how much effort I was going to spend appeasing the fickle interests of general relativity, causation, and basic physics. Conclusion: not much.

We got to T–‘s house just after four, and after a happy reunion with wives and baby daughters, we talked with Mom and Dad and the Charboneaus for a while, then headed to the church for “dinner and entertainment.”

I rode with Mom and Dad, and we spent most of the drive there discussing social anxiety disorder and specific management techniques. Then we showed up and I almost immediately forgot everything we’d talked about. The fellowship hall was packed, and there were so many half-remembered faces in the crowd, and really all I wanted to do was leave.

Dinner was a catered spread featuring sliced brisket, and as I filed through the line to fill my plate, I talked to four or five old family friends. Then halfway down the table, with my back turned to the tables full of people, I was suddenly overcome. My head started spinning, I couldn’t breathe, and I thought for sure I was going to pass out. I did as Dad had suggested, focusing on calming breaths while I made my way to the end of the line, and then discovered that Mom had picked out a table in the far back corner. So that helped a little. By the time I sat down, I felt almost normal again.

That was really the worst of it. Some friends stopped by our table to say hi, and a couple of them sat down with us, but with my sister’s family and my parents, we had the table mostly full already. After dinner everyone headed to the auditorium for a special presentation of all the former ministers (which included my Dad). I stayed out in the foyer with my sister and brother-in-law for most of that, though, flipping through some photo albums they’d put out. Most of the pictures were of my time in the youth group, and they were rich with memories. Honestly, those thirty minutes looking through photos made the whole thing worthwhile.

I did finally join Mom and Dad in the auditorium in time for a poorly-conceived Westlink Church of Christ History Jeopardy, which was more entertaining by its floundering than by design. I don’t mean that in a mean-spirited way, because the hosts took it all in stride, and Gary (the pulpit minister for as long as I’ve known Westlink) has always had a charming knack for laughing off little mistakes.

When we got in the car to head home Dad asked me about my experience, and I mentioned how much I’d enjoyed looking through the photos, because I have such a poor memory of my time in high school. On a whim, he offered to drive by the old school (it being just a mile out of the way). I’d done that a few times on my visits to the west side of town, but I’d never thought to actually turn onto the campus. Dad did, and by some strange fortune the gates were actually open so we could drive right up to the school.

As I’ve discussed social anxiety more and more recently, the question has often come up of when I first started struggling with it. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have a good answer. That brief tour Saturday night, though, confirmed suspicion it was firmly in place by high school. As we approached the building, I remember thinking, “Oh, it’s weird how familiar this all is!” And then as we got to the point where you’d actually turn toward the parking places, pick a spot, and then go in to classes, I was suddenly overwhelmed. Worse than when I was standing in line at church, I felt a crushing weight on my chest and my vision darkened. My heart started racing, as Dad casually swung past the parking spaces, up to the curb, and then turned back toward the exit.

Halfway there, after we’d left all the buildings behind, I finally found enough air to say weakly, “Oh, that was weird.” I paused for a moment, collected my thoughts, and then tried to explain to them what it had felt like. Mom and Dad are both trained counselors now, so they were interested and able to offer insight. Dad said I’d encounter that other places, too, because physical places tended to have strong emotional memory associated with them. That was easily the worst I’d ever experienced, though.

Still, by the time we turned onto Tyler and left the campus behind, I felt fine.

Sunday morning T– woke up early and took AB up to church for the pre-class coffee and donuts, figuring that she should be there for that since she’d skipped dinner Saturday night. I stayed home, slept in, and went with the Charboneaus in time for service at 10:30.

The service was a pretty good one, with some fantastic song-leading and a true-to-form emotional sermon from Gary. Afterward they had a big balloon release in memory of the Westlink family members who had gone on before. We’d intended to skip that, slip away during the confusion and have a quiet little family lunch, but when my sister went to get the little ones out of kids’ church, she got trapped in the crowd. And when I went in search of my errant sister, I did too. That turned out to be a lucky break, though, because I got to see Kelly Sullivan there. She’s a Mackey now, and I keep track of her on Facebook, but it was still nice to see an old friend. I also spoke with Serena Dawson and Loni Jo Butler and Steve Hutchins on Saturday night, and that’s pretty much it for other youth group alumni. Everybody else was family friends.

Anyway, after that we slipped away during the confusion, and had a quiet little family lunch at Carlos O’Kelly’s. Then Mom and Dad headed home, and my sister and her family came back to OKC, and T– and I ran to her parents’ place to get packed up and then we followed shortly after. We got home around five, order a pizza, and spent the evening on the couch, getting caught up with work on our laptops while AB played with puzzles and watched Shrek for the first time.

It was a busy weekend. Good, though. Better than I expected.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.